Northridge, Calif. – The roller coaster season for Southern Utah and CSUN continued Wednesday, with the Thunderbirds defeating the Matadors, 77-71.
Jessica Richardson led the way for Southern Utah, notching a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Jamie Smith and Skylee Doman also notched double figures for SU, scoring 17 and 10, respectively.
However, it was a slow start for the 5-6 Thunderbirds. CSUN came out of the gate strong, utilizing an uptempo style of play to go up by as many as 11 midway through the first quarter. The Matadors shot 61 percent from the field in the quarter. However, Southern Utah coach Chris Boettcher knew that if his team could just get some stops on defense, they could use the uptempo style to their advantage.
“That first quarter obviously had me worried because Northridge was shooting the ball so well and dominating, but the style of play is something that we like when its uptempo like that,” he said. “I knew if we could get a few stops throughout that first half that we would give ourselves a chance to be back in the game.”
The Thunderbirds got those defense stops, closing out the quarter by narrowing the deficit to five en route to tying the game at the 8:28 mark of the second quarter. Southern Utah would benefit from 12 Matador turnovers throughout the first two periods and head into halftime with a 40-36 advantage.
Southern Utah extended their lead by as many as 14 during the final minute of the third quarter. CSUN, also trying to swing their season in the right direction, attempted a fourth quarter comeback and outscored the visitors 20-14. But it was not enough to overcome the earlier deficit.
Boettcher said the win exemplifies the resiliency of his young team.
“We’re still relatively young and earlier in the season we’ve had those ups and downs, where the emotions of the game have caused us to not compete as hard as we’ve had,” he said. “It’s exciting, getting ready to go into conference to see them react this way.”
For CSUN, the loss doesn’t solely represent the sixth of the season – it serves as a microcosm of their season as a whole. For coach Jason Flowers, it has been a season of performance vs potential.
“Our inconsistency is our biggest obstacle,” Flowers said. “We’ve got to bridge that gap. I think it’s more mental than physical, but at that same time we’ve got to get people in situations where their consistently doing their job day in and day out”.
Channon Fluker continues to be a bright spot for CSUN, as she notched her seventh double-double of the season with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Eliza Matthews grabbed 11 rebounds.
CSUN continues their non-conference slate when they visit Seattle Dec. 29.